Think you and your kiddos will be bored on a Carnival Cruise?
I promise you won’t be bored. Your kids won’t be bored. Not one minute.
My kiddos (and entire family) are entertained from the time our eyes pop open in the morning until we crash at bedtime. There is no shortage of fun activities for the whole family.
Carnival definitely focuses on making sure that their cruises are a FUN experience for everyone. We have always felt that the atmosphere on Carnival is very relaxed. The crew has always been very nice and helpful (they even remember our names). I also have noticed that the crew and passengers on Carnival Cruises are easy going and unpretentious. Everyone is there to enjoy a nice vacation and have a good time.
I could probably write a post on our 100 favorite things to do on a Carnival Cruise, but here are our top 12.
On the first day of our cruise with Carnival, I always sign the kiddos up for Camp Carnival. When we board the ship, someone from Carnival Cruises always sees us with children and hands us a Camp Carnival flyer showing us when and where to sign up later that day. After signing the kiddos up, we receive an activity schedule for Camp Carnival for the duration of the Cruise. The schedule and activities are tailored to each age group. I talk to the kiddos every night about which events they want to attend the next day.
Camp Carnival is a youth program for kiddos ages 2-11. They also have Circle “C” for 12-14-year-old teens and tweens and Club 02 for 15-17-year-old teens.
Camp Carnival (continued)
My kiddos love Camp Carnival. The camp offers group games, team challenges, arts and crafts, face painting, movie nights, video game time, sand art, spin art, etc. They also have themed parties like Rock Star Parties and the Farewell Party. On our last cruise, the kids helped in making a volcano. They got to build the volcano, paint it, build the city around it, and watch it erupt.
My (then five-year-old) son would pick a few activities he was interested in and then I would pick him up when those events are over. Our daughter (at ages five and seven) could live at Camp Carnival. She has the best time there!
On our last cruise, my kiddos were not in the same age group and would have different activities in different groups. I talked to the Camp Carnival staff and they were very nice about letting my son and daughter do activities together if my five-year-old son felt anxious and wanted to be with his sister.
Camp Carnival also offers family events where an adult needs to be present, and a Build-A-Bear type event which costs extra.
Above: Arts & Crafts, Princess Party with Movie Night & Cereal Necklaces, and Beary Cuddly Workshop at Camp Carnival on Carnival Sensation
At 10:00 p.m. Camp Carnival has what it calls Night Owls. The kiddos can stay from 10:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m. for special events like a Mardi Gras Party or Beach Bash (my daughter barely made it to midnight since she never stays up that late normally – you can pick your kiddos up anytime). Camp Carnival staff entertains the kids with movies, games, toys, and activities.
My daughter went to the Beach Bash on our last cruise and she had a blast. All the kiddos got a bag filled with goodies to take with them. There is a fee for the Night Owls program, but it is not expensive, and totally worth it – especially if you and the hubs have plans for the evening.
On-board Pools & Slides
Our kiddos love a good swimming pool. My son also loves hot tubs, and my daughter loves water slides. On our first day on our cruise ship, we always eat lunch, check out the boat a little bit, check to see if our room is ready, and then head off the pool and water slides (not always in that order, but we always end up at the pool). The kiddos are always so excited to get their vacation fun started and this is one thing they can do on the first day and throughout the entire cruise.
We always bring a bag or backpack with sunscreen, the kiddos bathing suits, and a change of clothes (Our suitcases are taken through security and then delivered to our room for us later, so we bring a bag on board with us with some clothes and necessities). The kiddos have a great time and mom and dad can play in the pool too or pick out a blue lounging chair to relax in and watch the kids play (and order a drink-y drink).
On the Days At Sea, the pool and water slides can be very crowded. I have noticed that it is less crowded on the very first day, and the days the boat is at a Port.
Above: Carnival Elation Pool & Water Slide
Photo Above: Carnival Elation Pool & Water Slide
Above: Carnival Sensation Water Slides (circa 2012)
Photo Above: Carnival Sensation Splash Zone (circa 2012)
Hasbro Game Night
Hasbro Game Night usually happens on two separate evenings/afternoons on Carnival Cruises. They have trivia questions for the audience and 8 people are picked (if they answer the trivia questions correctly) to play games on the stage. The games are Hasbro games brought to life. There is basketball Connect 4, Yahtzee Bowling, Operation Skee-Ball, and other games.
My son was five years old at the time and was chosen to play (I helped him with the trivia question). Little Man really wanted to play the big games on stage. He was put on a team and he played against someone on another team on Operation Skee-Ball. It was unbelievable that he actually ended up scoring the most points and winning the whole game. Carnival and Hasbro gave him some mini-games and a $150 gift card to Hasbro.com games and toys. When we got home, he was able to order games and toys for himself and his sister.
Hasbro Game Night (continued)
Every person who participates in this gets a prize to take home (like Mini Hasbro Games). Playing the games looks like so much fun, but watching the games in the audience is also very fun and entertaining. Our host was Brandon, and he was hilarious. His conversations with the players were so funny and he had everyone laughing. And he was very good with little kids. His banter with my five-year-old was hilarious.
Carnival is all about the FUN and the Hasbro Game Night was definitely a lot of FUN! After the games, everywhere we went on the ship, people came up to my son. They remembered his name, gave him a high five, and told him congratulations! Everyone was so nice to him!
Every morning. Every night. About 5 times in between. We have to play mini golf. The kiddos love it.
Above: Early Morning Mini Golf in PJ’s on Carnival Elation
This is my favorite part of the cruise. I LOVE to shove food in my face. Cruising offers a great variety of options when it comes to eating. On Carnival, there are casual dining rooms with buffets, dessert tables, and salad bars (on the first night of the cruise, on the salad bar, there is a Green Apple, Fennel, and Citrus Salad that is FANTASTIC. You gotta try it!). There are also drink stations offering all-you-can-handle tea, coffee, and lemonade.
At breakfast, the buffet features unlimited amounts of BACON! It is a beautiful thing.
On some days, the buffet features French or Italian Food. Sometimes, it features American Food (if you see a roasted tomato stuffed with sweet potatoes on the American buffet, you gotta try it! It seems like a strange combination but it is SO GOOD!)
This is also where you will usually find the 24-hour Soft Serve Ice Cream and Froyo & 24 Hour Pizza Pirate Station. Some ships also have a sandwich station that served a nice variety of sandwiches and panini grilled sandwiches and they are opened late.
And, I can’t forget about the Grill next to the pool. My kiddos love to eat here after they take a break from swimming. They serve grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, slaw, potato salad, and nachos.
You can also eat your meals in the dining room (I honestly think the coffee and tea taste better in the dining room.) This is a great place to go when you really want to sit down and enjoy your meal. It’s also nice if you want to dress up a little bit and have a **HOT** date with your hubby while the kiddos are at a Beach Party at Camp Carnival.
We also like to eat in the dining room as a family on certain nights. Each of us have our favorite dishes that are only served in the dining room (I have noticed that the specials from the dining rooms sometimes make their way to the buffets later on in the evening. You know I got my eye on that buffet at all times!)
I love that most of the food options, like the buffets and dining room, are included in the price of the cruise. That makes cruising an affordable option for our family. It’s possible that I eat enough pineapple on the very first day to pay for the entire trip. In fact, they may lose some money when I’m on board. I hit that buffet like it’s my JOB. The food is always fresh and delicious.
If I don’t feel like going to the food, I can call the 24-hour room service and they bring the food to me (this is usually included in the cost of the cruise, but don’t forget to tip!). I don’t have to cook, wash dishes, or anything. Just eat. And then take a nap.
Each Carnival Ship has its own variety of dining options. Some Ships offer GUY’s Burger Joint (Guy Fieri’s), The Seafood Shack, Steakhouse, Blue Iguana Cantina, and/or Cucina del Capitano. Some ships offer a Green Eggs & Ham Brunch for kiddos and their parents. Some of these restaurants cost extra. You can check out each ship and it’s restaurants HERE.
Captain’s Night or Other Formal Night
Okay, this is probably more exciting for the girls in the family, but it is so much fun! You can dress up as fancy as you would like (or less fancy if you would like). Some wear their prom dresses, Mother of the Bride Dresses, etc. and some wear their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, or nice slacks and blouse. I’ve seen men in tuxedos or suits, and some wear nice slacks and a button-up shirt.
If you need something ironed for Captain’s Night, I recommend going to the irons (in the ship’s laundry rooms) as soon as possible. I try to go on the very first day. If you wait until a few hours before dinner on Captain’s Night, you will be waiting a while. This is a lesson I learned the hard way, with 6 outfits to iron.
Above: Captain’s Night Carnival Sensation
Captain’s Night (Continued)
After getting all dolled up, then it’s time to party! There are photographer’s and their backdrops scattered throughout the ship. They are set up all throughout the evening on Captain’s Night. This is a great time to get a family photo. Our family usually gets ready early in the afternoon so that we can get our photos before dinner. Before dinner, we walk around the ship, meet the captain, and have a few photos taken.
The photos taken during the cruise are displayed in a photo gallery on one of the decks for the remainder of your cruise. You can purchase as many photos as you would like there, and/or you can also purchase the digital files of your photos.
We usually eat dinner early also. This is a great night to get lobster tail, prime rib, etc. I always get the award-winning Tilapia dish AND Prime Rib (you can get more than one appetizer, entree, and dessert if you would like on Carnival Cruises.) Our meal usually ends with a round of Warm Chocolate Melting Cakes and Vanilla Ice Cream.
Above: Our view while waiting for dinner on Carnival Elation (on Captain’s Night, you can get your photo taken on the staircase)
After dinner, we usually take the kiddos to Camp Carnival for a Dance Party and Games. My husband and I like to catch a comedy show and do a little dancing at the Motown Dance Party. Well, I do a little “dancing” and my husband sits at the bar and laughs at me. The great thing about Carnival Cruises is that they focus on FUN. Everyone there is ready to have a good time, and Carnival makes sure that you do.
Volunteer & Participate in Events & Games
Carnival has mastered the art of making everyone feel comfortable and making sure every person is enjoying their vacation. They get things started with a Sail Away Party. Everyone is invited, even the kiddos, and it is a lot of fun. It is a great way to kick off your cruise.
I’ve already talked about the Hasbro Game Night, which was tons of fun. There are lots of other games and events to participate in. If you are at a seminar, and the speaker asks for a volunteer, throw your hand in the air and wave it like you just don’t care – and like you want some free stuff. There is probably a prize for the person who is chosen.
We went to hear about things to do in Cozumel. The speaker asked for a volunteer. One lady was chosen and was given a poncho, sombrero and some tequila. It was part of a cute little demonstration, and she got to keep everything she was given.
We also went to a sale on jewelry at the Carnival Fun Shops. Before the sale started, the lady asked for two volunteers. She asked for two men to compete to make a bracelet for their wife or girlfriend. It was hilarious to watch them try to make the bracelet, and they both walked away with some jewelry as a prize.
Even if there is no prize (most of the time there is some sort of prize), there are so many fun events to participate in on Carnival Cruises. There is Trivia all throughout the day- Wacky Trivia, Disney Trivia, Sports Trivia, Movie Quote Trivia, “FRIENDS” Trivia, etc, etc…
And trust me, I am barely scratching the surface with all of the activities available. There are seminars, spa parties & demonstrations, tea time (lots of yummy desserts and hot tea!), Battle of The Sexes, Motown Showdown, Extreme “Rock, Paper, Scissors”, Champagne Art Auction, The Love and Marriage Show, Charades, Scattergories, etc…
Carnival’s Website also shows which Carnival Ships have concerts and big-name comedians. These shows do cost extra.
This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we entered every contest we could and won a lot of nice gifts. There are contests and giveaways all over the ship. You just have to look out for them (**AND check your FUNTIMES Newsletter-read more below**) and be willing to take the time to enter.
Entering contests is a lot of fun! You never know…someone has to win…it might be you!
My sister won a gift certificate to Spa Carnival on the very first day. We went to hear a seminar on shopping in Cozumel. We went to enter the contest to win another cruise. We didn’t win the free cruise, but the kiddos won some bamboo necklaces and a Del Sol frisbee.
We also learned about other contests and giveaways aboard the ship and in Cozumel. We went to certain shops in Cozumel (Carnival basically has their own port and shops in Cozumel that are right off the ship-easy to find) and entered their contests. Then, we came back when it was time for the drawing for the prizes. My stepdaughter won a pearl bracelet and I won a pair of pearl earrings at one of the jewelry stores in Cozumel. It was such a nice way to start off our day in Cozumel, before heading off for lunch and some sightseeing.
There are so many contests on Carnival Cruises. We have seen the Hairiest Man Competition (hilarious!!), Master Mixologist Contest, Mexican Fiesta Giveaways, Bean Bag Toss Competition, Free Throw Basketball Contest, and on and on…
This may seem like torture for some, but this is something my husband and I really look forward to. We don’t worry about work, are not obsessively checking our phone, and don’t care that we probably have 14 billion emails waiting for us. I love that we just enjoy our time together. Granted, you do have the option to pay for Wi-Fi on the cruise ship or use the ship’s computers if you want or need to. We just don’t.
I look at this as an opportunity to really enjoy my kiddos without distractions. One of my favorite memories is from our first family cruise. For some reason, my (then five-year-old) daughter would wake up very early. We left the boys in the cabin to sleep and we would walk to the buffet area. I would get some coffee and she would get some chocolate milk in a coffee cup.
We would walk around the top deck of the cruise ship and talk. Besides a few early morning joggers and ship employees, we had the entire top deck to ourselves. We watched the sunrise and enjoyed the soft morning breezes while we drank our coffee and chocolate milk. I loved hearing her cute little stories about anything and everything, and she loved having her Mama all to herself for a little while. It would not have been the same experience if I had been glaring down at my phone the whole time.
Carnival Cruises offers shore excursions and tours. They partner with local services at each port and handle all the details. The cruise line offers a nice variety of options for excursions, depending on where you are visiting.
There have been times when we felt like the kiddos couldn’t handle a two-hour bus ride to a certain area/excursion. Sometimes, we take a cab to a local beach or hot spot. There have been other times that we have done a little research before the cruise and make up our own excursions that we think the kiddos can handle. We just make sure we know and obey all local laws and we are back before the boat leaves the port.
Above: Cozumel, Mexico
Photo Above: Progreso, Mexico
Above: Nassau, Bahamas
Photo Above: Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas
Left: Cozumel, Mexico Right: Progreso, Mexico
Above: Margaritaville Restaurant in Cozumel, Mexico (I know, I know… this is a very “touristy” place to go but jimmy-crack-corn-and-I-don’t-care. We had a great time here!)
Photo Above: Freeport, Bahamas
On-Shore Excursions (Continued)
One of my favorite things about cruises is that we get to see parts of the world that we probably couldn’t afford to visit otherwise. If we were to get flights for 6 people, 2 hotel rooms each night, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, entertainment, etc, $$$, etc… we just couldn’t do it or we would have to travel a lot less.
We look for good deals on Carnival’s website and we have joined their VIFP Program for discounts and rewards. This way we are able to show our kiddos parts of the world that we might not be able to afford if we traveled any other way.
You can learn more about Carnival Cruise’s Shore Excursions HERE.
Checking Our FUNTIMES Daily Newsletter
Every day, our room is cleaned and the pull-down beds are replaced in the morning. Then, in the evenings, our room is cleaned again and the beds are pulled down again (this makes me never want to leave). When we return to the room after a fun evening out, our beds are made and we have a cute towel animal waiting for us.
This is also when we receive our FUNTIMES Newsletter for the next day’s activities. It is a detailed newsletter explaining the next day’s events and times (there is a section with a condensed list/schedule of activities and times that you can tear off and take with you).
I like to bring a mini highlighter to mark the things the kiddos and I are interested in so that we can make sure we don’t miss anything. Some events only happen once, so it’s important to make sure you check this schedule.
Here is where you can find out the specials and events/demonstrations at the spa, the games and activities that are going on in the youth centers, shows and showtimes, comedians and their showtimes, Casino information, karaoke, live music, ladies night (sometimes with free champagne), tea parties, scavenger hunts, bingo, art auctions (sometimes with free champagne), sing-a-long piano parties, sales on merchandise at the Fun Shops, Hasbro Game Night, contests, giveaways, competitions, trivia, etc, the list goes on and on….
This newsletter also lets you know when things will be open the next day on the ship – The Spa, The Pool, The Art Gallery, The Fun Shops, The Pixels Gallery, The Gym, and so on…
FUNTIMES is also a great way to find information about dining times and dining dress codes. I like to check when the Dining Rooms and Buffets will be open throughout the day.
After a fun, eventful day, I really enjoy relaxing with my FUNTIMES. Our whole family talks about all the fun things we’re going to do the next day and then it is off to sweet dreams…
We try to attend as many classes as we can (if it’s something we are really interested in) on Carnival Cruises. The kiddos and I enjoyed learning how to make towel animals.
There was also an “Uptown Funk” Dance Class, Fab Abs Exercise Class, etc. Just check your FUNTIMES every night and see what classes will be available, and when & where they start.
I didn’t even get to talk about the shopping, basketball, ping pong, running track, sauna, dance parties, the musical shows and all the other things there are to do on a Carnival Cruise.
Carnival does a great job of keeping everyone happy and entertained.
We definitely always have a great time and can’t wait to go back!
Have you been on a cruise with Carnival? What are your family’s favorite things to do?
Let me know in the comments below!
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